The Berlin Diaries – Death or Glory

Okay, okay. ‘Death or Glory’ is a bit self important, as far as titles go. It’s just a cool sounding phrase, alright? I’m sorry. An alternate title could be ‘Owt or Nowt’, which is a joke you either will or will not get, depending on whether you are from Northern England.


Surely not. Surely not. It’s too soon to say but… my god, it looks as though everything might actually… work out okay?!

After waking up Sunday morning battered and bruised after my Saturday evening kebab-armed nosedive into the cold winter cobbles, I spent the day nursing myself back to function while preparing for my interview on Monday afternoon. I researched the company, made notes of questions I wanted to ask, and put a few ideas together of what I wanted to achieve in the role.

Monday came, and the interview was at 11, over near Mauerpark – the park with the Sunday flea market and karaoke. I spent the morning getting ready slowly and attempting to articulately answer interview questions in the bathroom mirror. I had to spend about 20 minutes in the shower because of the bloody henna tattoo on my hand from Saturday night. I stood there frantically scrubbing until my hand was raw and I had turned into a hot, sodden prune. All the scrubbing made it worse – after 20 minutes it had faded, but only to the point where it now resembled a days-old doodle on my hand, rather than an actual tattoo. Dash it all.

I headed out for the interview dressed in an oxford shirt, a newly washed pair of black jeans, and my black Harrington. I looked more like I was heading to a football firm meet up, but I don’t have a proper suit here – I only brought two bags, and a suit wasn’t on my list of crucial attire. My bags are filled with jumpers and socks, and that’s about all there was room for. I packed my learner’s motorbike license too, because you never know when you might need to ride a motorbike.

I arrived half an hour early at Mauerpark, and killed time by wondering through the park itself. I love walking by myself. You spot things you would miss if you were wittering on to a friend. I saw a dozen sports gear clad mums doing yoga, their prams clustered together off to one side. I saw a giddy schoolteacher chasing after a horde of tiny children in wellingtons and bobble hats, who seemed way too small to be able to run as fast as they were – that desperate waddle, bobbing up and down, swaying from side to side, only ever a slight breeze away from falling over. I saw a bird washing itself in a puddle. I saw a short sighted old man saunter through the park, tugging his short sighted old sausage dog along behind him.

At 10.45 I headed to the offices. The address on the huge oak door matched the one in my notes, and I pressed the buzzer. The door clicked open, and I strained against it, heaving my way into the building. I found myself in large white room surrounded by glass and plastic. It was like Hannibal Lecter’s pen. It was something akin to a viewing gallery, and I was a lonely polar bear. A few stern looking men in uniforms noticed me, nodded, and strode over to unlock me from my cage. It was then that I noticed their badges: Polizei. Erm. Right? This seemed like a fairly intense interview process for a start-up website.

One of the officers said something to me in German that I didn’t catch. Tripping over my own tongue in my lame Deutsch, I asked if he spoke English. He did, thankfully, and I showed him the address I had. He very politely informed me that I was, in fact, in the wrong building. My interview was next door. Ah. That made great deal of sense. I bid the Berlin police force a fond farewell, and struggled with the heavy wooden door once more.

I found the actual offices next door, and once more humiliated myself trying to enter. I pressed the buzzer, and answered the querying voice on the other end first in German, then English, then just a gurgled stammer of vowels and awkward half-words. Thankfully, the door opened, despite my indecipherable pleading. I wound my way into the building, got trapped in a courtyard for a little while, and eventually found my way up to the office, on the third floor, up a giant staircase.

I knocked on the door, spent a couple of frantic seconds deciding how to stand when they opened the door (Wall lean? Hands in pockets? Ready-for-anything crouch?), and was finally lead inside. With the company being a start-up, I was expecting a cramped, cheap office with a few bedraggled Berliners huddled over outdated laptops. Instead, I followed a young girl through a third storey warehouse, with the ceiling some 15 metres high. It looked like it might once have been a gigantic factory floor. Now, however, it was bright, airy, stylishly decorated, with pools of desks all over. People whizzed past me on either side riding scooters. Bloody scooters.

I followed the girl through the office, that familiar walk of shame, fresh meat being paraded through. The interview went well, and I grew more and more impressed as time went on. Free fruit, free club mate, free beers, ping pong, table football, and a staff who seemed vibrant, young and stylish. Dear god… can this kind of place really exist? Surely not. Surely things can’t be working out so well. That simply doesn’t happen to me. Things go wrong for me – that’s my lot in life, that’s who I am! This website wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the unceasing public humiliation that is my life.

A day or two later, I received an email informing me I’d made it to the second stage of the process. It was a writing task. I gave it my all, and received word yesterday that I would be invited to the last step of the application process – a coffee morning with the team, next Tuesday. This is both thrilling and terrifying. I see two possible scenarios. Either, A) I have already got the job in the bag, and this is just one last cautionary step to check I’m not secretly a massive racist or something, or B) there are multiple other candidates at this stage who will also be meeting the team, and the team will vote on who they like best. Which is fucking terrifying.

If I’m successful, the job begins formally in January, although there may be some out-of-office work through December, which would be perfect as I’m going back to sunny old Albion between the 13th and 31st of December. I thought this would make finding a job troublesome, but this fits perfectly. I’ve never wanted a job so much. Everything rides on this – staying in Berlin, advancing my career, hitting every goal I’ve been aiming for the past year. All I have to do is sip a coffee, smile politely, and not come across as loathsome, moronic or catatonic.


Bring it on.


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